Few days after his appointment as Acting Agriculture Secretary, Dr. William D. Dar met the representatives of the National Sectoral and Strategic Concerns Committees (NSSCCs) and the newly-elected chairpersons of the Regional Agricultural and Fishery Councils (RAFCs) on August 13, 2019 in Quezon City.
The Acting Secretary revealed to the volunteer-partners of the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) his vision based on the strategy of “New Thinking” that will ensure a food-secure Philippines and double the income of the farmers and fisherfolks.
The “New Thinking” is built around eight paradigms. These are (1) modernization of agriculture, (2) industrialization of agriculture is key, (3) promotion of exports is a necessity, (4) consolidation of small- and medium-sized farms, (5) infrastructure development would be critical, (6) higher budget and investment for Philippine agriculture, (7) legislative support is needed, and (8) roadmaps development is paramount.
“This vision could be attained with the mission to collectively empower farmers and fisherfolks and the private sector to increase agricultural productivity and profitability taking into account sustainability and resiliency,” said Acting Sec. Dar.
As the former Executive Director of the then National Agricultural and Fishery Council, now PCAF, he directed to strengthen PCAF’s Advisory Special Bodies (ASBs) by increasing the membership in every committee.
He proposed to the group that a meeting between him and the NSSCCs and RAFCs should be held every six months to hear their feedback on the Department’s programs and projects.
He mentioned that the government needs the private sectors to outline policies or laws, aligned to the President’s development framework and vision, that could promote inclusive growth development.
New directions based on New Thinking
Acting Sec. Dar informed the NSSCCs to submit all the roadmaps based on the “New Thinking” document that he crafted. According to him, the roadmaps should be re-aligned and bounded by a clear vision that will ensure food security towards prosperous farmers and fisherfolks.
In terms of credit and loan facilitation, Acting Sec. Dar explained that the Cabinet Members already have a 3-year action plan for Land Bank of the Philippines, while he, as the new Chairperson of the LandBank Board, instructed the bank to intensify the Ease-of-Doing Business for easier processing of loans for farmers.
He will also encourage commercial banks to intensify their participation in the Republic Act 10000 or the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act by incentivizing their participation. The Act “mandates banks to allot at least 10% of their total loanable funds to agrarian reform beneficiaries, and 15% for farmers and fisherforlks.”
He reiterated his proposal to create Provincial Agricultural Extension Services to deliver more efficient farm extension services. According to Acting Sec. Dar, the service will adopt the “steering and rowing” approach. The Department will do the “steering” or providing guidance and direction, while the local government units, including private sectors, universities and colleges, and civil society organizations will do the “rowing” or producing the services.
With this, he encourages the farmers and fisherfolks to collectivize into associations and cooperatives. According to him, the Department’s extension system will no longer be based on individual farmer and fisherfolks but will systematically engage in institutional development to reach out more than five million farmers and fisherfolks.
To ease the concerns of the NSSCCs and AFCs, he will review the procurement guidelines of farm machineries and its implementing guidelines. Currently, the government awards the project or machinery to the supplier who has the lowest responsive bid and passed the test from Agricultural Machinery Testing and Evaluation Center.
Acting Sec. Dar will also check the laws about private sector participation in DA Bids and Awards Committee (BAC). The private sectors have been part of BAC as observers and according to the rules, observers are prohibited to comment and/or participate.
“I will review the law if there are parts that prohibit you, the private sector, in participating in the BAC,” he said.
Although he has yet to meet the fisheries sector, he admitted that he has no new policy directions for the fisheries and aquaculture, as of this writing. He reiterated that the intents and purposes of the existing laws on fisheries must be properly observed and implemented.| JC